Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Dreamed I Saw St. Louis (A play on Bob Dylan's song "I dreamed I saw St. Augustine" which is relevant since Joinville had a dream about Louis

How is Louis Saintly in his role as King?

When looking at Louis IX as presented by Joinville, one gets the notion that King Louis is indeed a saint, due to his “martyrdom” as a Christian warrior, and his saintly role as a king. We are already aware about Louis’ religious devotion in the crusades, how he carried the cross, and was seen as a “martyr” since he was held captive, and endured many cruelties in the name of Christianity. In the crusades, he was also a man who refused to give into temptation of loose women (187), knowing that it constituted a moral sin. Louis abstained from carnal lust, knowing if he were to die in battle, he would be sent to hell for his mischievous deeds. He also removed many of his men for easily falling prey to the seductive women, and not staying moral and dedicated to the religious cause. Apart from his martyrdom, and his efforts in the first crusade, Louis’ personality, and his deeds as King, Joinville argues, allows him to be remembered in the pages of history as a saint.
During the crusades, Louis is predicted as a man who is most charitable in regards of wealth and rewards.

Joinville stated that the King personally gave rewards in his campaigns against the King of England and against the barons. But while he was generous with his offerings, he also refused to ask for or take contributions from his own barons, knights and men (172). There was also the story about how Louis broke the custom of separating the spoils of the city. The tradition stated that the King was entitled to one-third of the plunder, but Louis refused to take all the rewards, stating that the 6,000 livres should be given to the Lord of Vallery to divide as he thought best. This is quite contradictory on Joinville’s part, as originally he praised Louis for refusing to take any offerings from his people, but also accuses him of breaking with tradition.

Aside from the crusades, Louis as King is depicted by Joinville as a saint, as seen through his governmental reforms as well as his personal leadership qualities. He is first off praised by Joinville for bringing the conflict between Count Thibault of Bar and Count Henry of Luxembourg to a peaceful end, which Louis responded to by saying if he wouldn’t have stopped it “I would have won the hatred of God, who says, Blessed are the peacemakers” (317). Louis is also seen as saint worthy by Joinville that he would punish those who spoke ill of God, his mother, or his saints. Joinville notes that in the twenty-two years he knew Louis, he never once heard the King swear by God, his mother, or his saints, or mutter the name of the Devil unless it was written in a book (318). Louis is depicted as a man who loves God more than anything else in the world, and as seen with his rejection of the easy women, makes sacrifices in order to spend eternity with the Lord.

A major part of Louis as a King that makes him worthy of sainthood is how he interacts with all people, including the poor and helpless, and how he takes an interest in making their lives better. He devoted himself, his time and money to helping those devoted to God have a better day than they were accustomed to. The King personally asked by Joinville did not care to bother washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday, stating that he should not despise doing so since God had done so (318). Louis was attempting to follow in the footsteps of the Lord, as since he was a child, he set about providing care for the weak and needy. Joinville points out that every day Louis would feed 120 people each day with quantities of bread, wine, meat and fish (things he ate himself) and during Lent and Advent would drastically increase that number. Louis would also personally serve those poor and needy people, and after dinner would make sure they left with a generous amount of money (325).

On top of all this, Louis would give numerous amounts of alms (a religious rite in material form) to those needy religious people, to impoverished hospitals, poor sick people and needy communities, as well as the poor, prostitutes, and the sick and elderly. (325) Also, Louis built numerous churches and religious houses, as well as almshouses, and hospitals for the blind (with a chapel so they could hear the Divine Office)(325). And he also created the “House of the Daughters of God” to house poor stricken women, and prostitutes as a way for them to stop living sinfully and begin living anew with a commitment to chastity (326).

Louis is presented by Joinville as a very generous and saintly man who courteously gave charity to all those in need purely for the love of God, rather than looking for pride or recognition. The King, a man with deep love for God, would also take extra time to help those who shared the love of the Lord as a way to support their way of life. By setting up so many churches, Louis would be able to install religious men all around the city of Paris, all showing a love of God. For a King to spend so much time and money on poor men and women who have fallen on hard times is astounding, as surely not many prior or after him have ever done anything similar. To care for everyone in need shows how saintly Louis was not only as a King, but as a person, in trying to make the people he governed enjoy a better life.

Another aspect that made Louis saintly was how he reformed France, to end corruption, and allow for a more prosperous country. He was concerned with dealing fairly with all people of France, whether rich and poor, friend or stranger (320), and not giving any special allowances or privileges to a certain group of people. In the reformed France people would not be allowed to receive gifts of gold and silver, or to send any gifts to a member of a council (which could be seen as a bribe). People would also not be allowed to swear against God, his mother, or the saints (rules that Louis lived by), and sinful temptations such as dice, taverns, and prostitutes should be avoided completely (321). On top of that Louis also added that good people should not be oppressed with unfair penalties, offices may not be sold to greedy individuals, and no man should be deprived of his possessions or unfairly taxed (323).

To Louis, these things not only oppressed the majority of the poor and powerless people, but they also made France an uncivilized place of corruption and vice. Louis would strive to make sure that the common man was looked after, and would establish God as the dominant factor in everyday life, replacing gambling, alcoholism and prostitution. By preventing unlawful abuse of power in offices, Louis would allow for a more egalitarian country, with everyone being protected....Too bad Louis XVI didn’t do the same thing.

Towards the end of his life, proving himself a man devoted to God, Louis tried once more to take up the cross for another crusade. Unfortunately it was short lived, and within a short amount of time Louis was on his deathbed. In his last note, looking at his legacy, Louis told his son to follow his path, and perform the same things he had done as ruler. This included love God and avoid sin, uphold justice and be fair to all your citizens, maintain peace, and love all representatives of the holy church (331).

Upon his death, Joinville pointed out that Louis was a “saintly priest” who maintained his kingdom in so saintly and honest a manner, and who gave such great alms and ordinances there (333). He was also a man who brightened his kingdom with the warm embrace of God with many beautiful abbeys as well as hospitals and houses. Joinville testified, as did others, of the greatness and saintliness of Louis IX, and the deceased king for all his glories as ruler, was placed among the number of great confessors....Saintly indeed. The “saintly king” (334) stood as a symbol for those who wished to act virtuously, and to spurn those who acted with wicked behaviour. A man who once made sure 10,000 livres were paid to the enemy Saracens because of his loyalty and his word, had an alter built and dedicated to both him and God by Joinville where mass would be sung regularly. The man, the king, the saint, Louis IX.

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